Moisture availability in the southwest United States over the last three glacial-interglacial cycles

Kathleen A. Wendt, Yuri V. Dublyansky, Gina E. Moseley, R. Lawrence Edwards, Hai Cheng, Christoph Spötl

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7 Scopus citations


The projected long-term drying of the southwest (SW) United States in response to climate warming raises a sobering alarm for this already water-limited region, yet the climatic controls on moisture availability over longer time scales remain a topic of debate. Here, we present a 350,000-year record of past water table fluctuations in Devils Hole 2 cave that are driven by variations in recharge amount to the local groundwater flow system. Because of the unprecedented length and precision of our record, we can observe variations in regional moisture availability over the last three glacial-interglacial cycles at a millennial-scale resolution. The timing of past water table rises and falls (>9 m in amplitude) closely coincides with the expansion and reduction of Northern Hemisphere ice volume, which in turn influences the position and intensity of westerly winter storms on orbital time scales. Superimposed on this long-term trend are millennial-scale highstands recorded during the last glaciation that coincide with North Atlantic Heinrich events. Earlier millennial-scale highstands provide the first evidence of multiple short-lived wet periods in the SW United States linked to coeval cooling intervals in the North Atlantic during marine isotope stages 6 and 8. The Devils Hole 2 water table record is currently the longest independently dated paleomoisture record in the SW United States and thus provides a critical testbed to examine the controls on regional moisture availability over larger time scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbereaau1375
JournalScience Advances
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 24 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) project numbers FP263050 (to C.S.) and T710-NBL (to G.E.M.) and by the NSF project number 1602940 (to R.L.E.).

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2018 The Authors, some rights reserved.


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